Friday, August 10, 2018

Frank Carpay did not make the cruet set!

Frank Carpay's Crown Lynn Handwerk pieces are valuable and higly collectable. 


Pic courtesy Heather Thorburn

Below is one individual piece. It looks too rough to be made by Crown Lynn. 

 Here is the base - unmarked. 

There is a long-standing myth that this condiment set was designed by Frank Carpay during the time he worked at Crown Lynn. The sets typically sell on TradeMe for over $100. If they were genuine Carpay, avid collectors would push up the bidding well above that figure. 

But unfortunately buyers still pay far more than a mid-century condiment set is worth, in the belief that they are getting a collectable piece of Crown Lynn.  Many experts have assessed this set and we are confident it is not Crown Lynn and not Carpay. Diligent searches of available shape catalogues have found nothing that suggests that this set is Crown Lynn. 

Sadly the myth is perpetuated – sellers ‘believe’ it is Carpay or ‘have been told’ it is Carpay.

Trust me, it is not.  

In contrast, here are some things that Frank Carpay did decorate.  They are all clearly marked with variations on his 'Handwerk’ signature and decorated with his distinctive loose brush-strokes.  This magnificent platter features in my  Crown Lynn book. It was bought by Sir Tom Clark at an auction in 2004, and  he was prepared to pay whatever it took to own it. 

I was shown this vase by a long-standing Crown Lynn staff member who treasured it.

This is part of a dessert set - one large serving bowl and six pudding dishes. 

Almost without exception, Frank Carpay's work is marked with his distinctive Handwerk motif. This bowl also carries the Crown Lynn 'star and tiki' mark which Gail Henry told us is from the late 1940s-early 1950s. 

Frank (Francis Hubertis) Carpay emigrated to New Zealand from Holland in February 1953, bringing with him the radical new design ideas of European modernists including Picasso. He was snapped up by Crown Lynn director Tom Clark, who hoped to move away from the traditional ‘rosebud’ china which was then mainstream.

Working with Crown Lynn designer David Jenkin, Carpay began to develop his innovative Handwerk series.

This is a publicity shot from the Auckland Star newspaper.  Carpay on the left, David Jenkin on the right. Just look at that wonderful array of work behind them. 
Frank Carpay was possibly able to throw pots, but - to my knowledge - at Crown Lynn he was a decorator only.  At first he painted standard Crown Lynn shapes, then he began designing new shapes for jugs, oil bottles and platters.  

This is what Tom Clark told me:  ‘Carpay sketched the shapes and then we made them. Some were hand-potted, Ernie Shufflebottom (Shufflebotham) made them. Others were modelled and moulded.’ 

There was a great deal of publicity at the time. When Carpay demonstrated his technique in public, he was often surrounded by an eager audience. His work was greeted with acclaim by critics and art aficionados.  

However Carpay’s Handwerk series did not sell well.   Most New Zealanders still preferred conservative designs., and Carpay’s unsold work piled up.  In 1956 he was asked to leave Crown Lynn. 

When I was interviewing Sir Tom Clark in 2004, he told me this was one of his biggest regrets.   

 ‘Finally we had too much stuff and I had to say Frank, I’m sorry Frank it’s not selling sufficient. It is costing too much to keep you. Which broke my heart.  He deserved a better chance than we were able to give him. He was way ahead of his time. Now we all think it is beautiful, wonderful but at the time it was way ahead of their (public) taste. He was a very smart guy, he had rubbed shoulders with Picasso, philosophised with him. ‘

After he lost his job at Crown Lynn, Carpay went on to develop a successful business designing and screen printing fabric for beach wear. 

Here is my one and only Frank Carpay piece.  It is the standard shape 735, and was originally one of a set of small serving dishes mounted on a tabletop 'ferris wheel' arrangement.

Lastly thanks to my fellow collectors and researchers who encouraged me to make a formal statement about the much-disputed cruet set. I would be so delighted if there is  no reference to Carpay or Crown Lynn when the next one goes on sale. 


Douglas Lloyd Jenkins
Frank Carpay

Louis Le Vailant
Considering Frank Carpay
Art New Zealand NUMBER 109 / SUMMER 2003-04

Interviews with Sir Tom Clark and others
Valerie Monk


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